Learning that you have a judgment over a debt is one of the most stressful events that someone can experience. This is especially true if you never knew you were being sued. Now your credit rating is being dragged down and you’re wondering what you can do.
The unfortunate reality is that once a judgment is on your credit report, it’s there to stay except in some very narrow circumstances. About the only way to get a judgment removed from your credit report is to first convince a court to vacate the judgment. This is a challenging process on its own. But it is possible if you demonstrate that you never received notice of the lawsuit; therefore you couldn’t respond.
To discuss your options for dealing with a debt judgment, reach out to an experienced Ohio debt lawyer at Luftman, Heck and Associates. We can provide you with recommendations, protect you from unfair debt collection practices, and ensure your rights are respected.
Call us at (888) 726-3181 to set up a free consultation.
How a Judgment Ends Up on Your Credit Report
When you get sued, the law says that the plaintiff has to serve you with notice of the lawsuit. This is called “service of process.”
The notice must be served in one of a few specific ways under Ohio’s Rules of Civil Procedure.
This is the preferred option for service of process unless you request another method or the piece of certified mail can’t be delivered. If the piece of certified mail goes unclaimed or is returned, then the plaintiff can ask that you be served by regular mail. It should be documented in the case file that service by certified mail failed.
If service of process is sent by regular mail, and the piece of regular mail is returned as undeliverable, then the plaintiff may request another option. The failure of regular mail service should be documented in the case file.
A plaintiff may request that you be served in person. Usually, this involves hiring a process server to hand-deliver the notice of the lawsuit to you. A sheriff’s deputy also may complete personal service.
In Ohio, if the process server or deputy is unable to serve you within 28 days, then the failure of service should be documented.
Residence service involves having a process server or sheriff’s deputy leave the notice of the lawsuit at your usual place of residence.
Service by Publication
If all other methods of service have failed and the plaintiff doesn’t know where to locate you, they may request service by publication. This is supposed to be a last resort.
Service by publication involves placing a legal notice in the newspaper that runs over a set period of time and contains information about the lawsuit. The plaintiff must obtain proof of publication from the newspaper and file it with the court.
Your Response & Default Judgements in Ohio
Once the notice of the lawsuit is successfully served, you have a certain amount of time to respond to the lawsuit. If you don’t respond, the plaintiff can ask the court for a default judgment.
A default judgment is just what it sounds. It means the plaintiff wins by default because you didn’t respond. This is much the same way a baseball team might win a game by default if the other team doesn’t show up to play.
The judgment also becomes a matter of public record. Once the judgment is in the public record, then credit reporting agencies have systems to scrape those records and add the judgment to your credit report. These days, a lot of that may be done by computer and automated systems.
The Negative Impact of a Judgment
A judgment can have a significant impact on your life and in various ways. When a judgment is reported to the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion — it will reduce your credit score. When your credit rating is lowered, you may have a harder time obtaining credit, such as a mortgage or a car loan. You’ll also pay higher interest rates when you do get credit.
If a potential employer checks your credit report and finds a judgment, you may have a harder time getting hired. If the job is with the federal government or a federal contractor and requires that you be approved for a security clearance, a judgment may be a barrier to getting the clearance you need. Depending on the nature of the job, a federal agency may view a judgment on your credit report as evidence of poor decision-making — even if the judgment was due to circumstances beyond your control.
Vacating a Judgment in Ohio
Because of the ways a judgment can affect your credit rating and ripple into other parts of your life, it’s definitely beneficial to get a judgment removed from your credit report if you can.
As mentioned above, this is a difficult process and only applies to a default judgment that was granted when you weren’t properly served with notice of the lawsuit. If none of the methods of service were successful, then you may be able to convince the court to set aside the judgment. This is also referred to as vacating the judgment.
Getting a judgment vacated can be a very technical legal process. It’s important to have all of your paperwork in order and to make sure that you’re providing the right kind of reason for your request to vacate the judgment. A skilled Ohio consumer law firm will have the knowledge and experience that can improve your chances of success.
If you are successful in getting a judgment vacated, your lawyer can then help you with trying to get it removed from your credit report.
Work with an Ohio Consumer Law Attroney
If you’re being sued over a debt or have received a judgment, Ohio consumer protection law firm Luftman, Heck & Associates can help.
Attorney Jeremy Heck has significant experience helping Ohio consumers with issues such as debt lawsuits, debt management, creditor harassment, and inaccurate credit reporting. Call us at (888) 726-3181 for a free consultation today.